In her recent Accountability meeting mid-July, Telluride Middle & High School Principal Sara Kimble addressed local safety and health, along with educational needs. Kimble and Superintendent John Pandolfo were kind enough to join us to help educate us on the latest happenings with Telluride schools, as well as dispel any rumors.
Telluride schools were closed mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where it transitioned to an online platform. Kimble commented that the staff and administration learned a lot, especially how to think outside the box. They herald their teachers in stepping up to the plate regarding their flexibility and teaching styles, and the students for their adaptability. Even High School graduation was changed Kimble added, with graduates riding in a Gondola cab in Mountain Village up to receive their diplomas. Now, future students want to graduate this way!
Kimble described the Teacher Design Teams – organized to collect data from students, parents and teachers to determine best steps moving forward. Forty teachers across the district participated and discussed teaching, technology, and communication while balancing health and safety with educational needs.
A survey was sent out to the almost 600 participants in the schools, and Pandolfo delighted that a majority of the surveys were returned. This type of feedback and communication allowed the Telluride school system to make decisions that will benefit most if not all and cater to new needs as a result of the pandemic.
The survey indicated that 90% of people wanted some form of in-person learning.
Students grades 7-12 will be allowed to participate in in-person learning at the school, with a shifted schedule from 7 classes a day to a 4-class block. Fifty percent of the students will be at school every day – The Maroon Group with last names beginning A-L, and the Gold Group with last names beginning M-Z. Each student will be in house two days a week. A video where Kimble explains this new scheduling can be found on the school’s website.
This new plan will limit interactions with other students, which will be a huge adjustment for students as many participate in most of their socialization during school. All lockers, benches and furniture have been taken out of the halls to create more space for social distancing for the students and all are required to wear masks.
Both administrators indicated that things will get better or worse depending on how things increase or decrease – we are in a very fluid time.
Kimble added that if restaurants and bars are allowed to be open, then schools are too. The teams have ensured that there is enough room to allow social distancing, and wall mounted hand sanitizer has been installed in each classroom to supplement hand washing.
Pandolofo said that many understand and are supportive of the new initiatives, and that he and his staff consider every angle and perspective.
There will be no alternating days for elementary school children, pre-K-6th grade. All students will attend every day socially distanced. New technology like a camera that swivels and follows the teacher or student will be implemented to make it safer for teachers and students to participate in remote learning if desired. Masks are a requirement for everyone on campus and face shields are being discussed to allow for more facial movement for the hearing impaired. Pandolfo indicated that they have measured all physical spaces to be in compliance with the distance necessary to maintain a small group size and small classes. Tables and tents will be set up outside as group lunches and auditorium visits will need to be limited.
New testing protocols are also being discussed, and there are strict rules about staying home from the bus and school if showing any symptoms or feeling ill. The survey polled whether families had a thermometer or would be able to get one by the time school begins, as well as if they needed one to be provided by the school. Pandolfo continued that since the July 9 survey there have been an uptick in local cases, and to reach out to him or Kimble if your feelings have changed.
For the middle and high schools, eight students have moved away and 12 new students have enrolled. Eleven new students have been added to the elementary school roster, therefore adding one additional kindergarten teacher. The intermediate level is hiring one teacher as well as permanent substitutes. Pandolfo said he is preparing for an increase, but there are no definitive numbers yet.
Pandolfo stressed the importance of funding and student counts. He added that the school system’s budget will be down this year and anticipates a 10-20% decrease next year. He was pleased, however, that they have not been forced to furlough.
What about sports teams? Kimble said sports are dictated by the Colorado High School Activities Association – CHSAA – and they are continuing to revise and revisit their plans, currently on the Governor’s desk. All fall sports – soccer, golf and volleyball – are a ‘go’ for now, with different requirements to spectate, if at all. Distancing and disinfecting will have more prominence, and coaches off the field will be required to wear masks. Students participating in the sport are allowed to do so without a mask, as it can cause more issues, Kimble said.
Each classroom is fully disinfected in between classes, and Kimble said there is a deep clean every night. Pandolfo added that there are currently no plans to have outsiders quarantine, but he and his team will continue to follow Colorado state guidelines.
With school starting Wednesday, August 19th, it is important to enroll to ensure Telluride gets the proper funding for the year. Kimble commented that children relocating with their parents to winter here will not be counted unless they enroll in August. It is critical to receive proper funding to limit the strain on classroom size and administrative support. Both Kimble and Pandolfo have ‘high hopes’ that all planning to attend will register on the school’s site ASAP in order to qualify for optimal resources for the future. Visit the school’s website to enroll, or contact Kim Spaulding KSpaulding@telluride.k12.co.us. Tellurideschool.org has all the latest COVID and reopening plans.
*It is important to note that this information is relevant and applicable as of July 28th COB. Due to COVID-19 things change by the hour.